Monday, November 7, 2016

A Miracle Cure

There are a couple bugs going around right now, and as a teacher, I am exposed to all of them. There is the stomach thing; dizziness, weakness, nausea and possible vomiting . Then there is the face thing; sinus pain, stuffiness, and runny eyes and nose. One of my students recently succumbed to the first bug. She was sent home.

By that afternoon, another student seemed to be a victim of the same thing. With a vivid explanation of how he felt, ("My stomach feels like it is moving up to my throat, and I feel really, really weak, even weaker than my baby brother. My head feels spicy and I'm dizzy.") I thought, "Oh great, it's going to go through everyone!" I tried to contact victim #2's parents, even though it was nearing the end of the day. They were unable to come early, so I had him lie down on our reading rug and try to rest.

It turns out is was another student's birthday this day and she brought cupcakes to share with the class.  While the class, excepting sick child #2, were out at P.E., I sat at my desk to enjoy a few moments of silence and prepare for the remaining hours of the school day. #2 had much to say...a LOT to say. Now, I cherish the few minutes in the day where I can sit in peace and not speak to another living soul, but he had so much to talk about. Finally, I had to say, "You know, when I'm as sick as you are, I can never talk as much as you are doing right now...." He seemed to take the hint and rested quietly for a few moments until the bell rang and the rest of class came clambering in.

Upon finishing our afternoon routine it was time to pass out the cupcakes. It was in this moment that I believe I discovered the cure to the stomach bug that is going around. CUPCAKES!! In an instant, that child was off the floor, smiling and cheering with the other students at the prospect of feeding his sweet tooth. Now, I'm no expert, but I believe even scientists haven't come up with a cure that works this fast. It was amazing!

Now, as for the "face thing" going around. I caught it Friday and felt so miserable that I'm pretty sure I caught the 'man' version of it. Not much got done over the weekend, but I'm feeling better now. Here's to good health, everyone!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Underground to Above the Clouds

"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing." - Helen Keller. 

This may be my favorite quote of all time...but then I can't be sure because I am a lover of quotes. One day, maybe I will be quoted as saying something earth shatteringly wonderful....okay, I'm getting ahead of myself.  My latest adventure, however, brought this quote to mind..."life is either a daring adventure, or nothing." I'm pretty sure Helen Keller and I would have been great friends; she'd never judge me for the way I looked or what I said, she'd never repeat secrets I told her or speak unkindly about me. We'd walk together in silence experiencing one dangerous adventure after another.

With that being said, I was thankful for the adventurers I had with me the second week of July when we traveled 140 miles south to the great and powerful Mt. St. Helens. I had acquired our climbing permits the first possible day way back in February. After that the date of our climb was set in stone as the permit process is pretty rigid. The weather, however, in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) is as fluid as the sea that dictates it's changing ways and with our hike rapidly approaching, we were heading into a cloudy stretch with chances of rain. I even read reports that given the variable of wind, the temperature at the summit could feel like 37 degrees!! Yes, it was still July, last I checked.

The weather forecast didn't dampen our spirits, however, we just packed accordingly. This trip was a promised "one on one" time for Samuel and Hunter as I had already gotten to spend special time with Ben and then the girls. It ended up being "one on four" though because my nephews, Donovan and Thomas picked up the extra permits we had acquired. It turned out to be perfect, however, because everything is always more fun when cousins are around.

After Mass, we drove the almost 2 1/2 hours to Cougar, WA where we checked into Lone Fir Resort. The room was gorgeous and comfortable, just what I was looking for, and there was a pool outside, just what the boys were looking for. First off, though, we all wanted to explore the Ape Caves.

This longest continuous lava tube in the continental U.S. offers 2.5 miles of dark explorations. We made sure all of our flashlights had good batteries and layered on some extra clothing. The caves were only about a 10-15 minute drive from our room. 

I've been to the caves before but my children had not. The last time I went was with a few of my siblings and their families and all I really remember was passing babies back and forth to each other as we struggled to climb volcanic boulders in the dark without falling over or dropping one of the little ones. I looked forward to doing this now with my boys who can not only walk on their own two legs but give me a hand if I need one. 

We arrived at the parking lot for the ape caves mid-afternoon and descended into the opening via a steep, metal staircase. We had the option of taking the longer but easier lower tunnel to the left or the shorter but more difficult tunnel to the right. We went left first, then when we returned from the lower cave, we explored the upper cave. The hike was an easy albeit somewhat bumpy walk through an amazing couple of miles of underground trail. Toward the end of the lower cave the ceiling became lower and the walls narrowed.  Being claustrophobic, just breathing normally become laborious. I literally struggled to take a deep breath and knew that I needed to turn around. The boys didn't seem to have a problem, however, especially Hunter who crawled his way to the point where we had no choice but to turn around and head back. 

Oh, by the way, did I mention this hike takes place entirely in the pitch dark? You cannot see your hand in front of your face. Some of us wore head lamps and some carried flashlights. Wearing a headlamp made it easier because many times in the upper tunnel we had to use our hands to climb up and over large abrasive boulders.  At one point in order to go further we had to scale an 8 foot wall with only one foothold in it. We helped each other up and over without much trouble.

A sign outside the caves said, "No Smoking in Cave", well someone did not heed the warning and the smoke, or at least the smell of smoke, having nowhere to go, clung thick and sickening to the cave's interior. I felt nauseous and welcomed the end of the tunnel. We were fooled at one point, thinking that an opening in the cave was the actual exit. It was the first natural light we had seen in awhile and the fresh air felt good in our lungs. The slight taste of the great outdoors made me hungry for more (and the hike itself just made me hungry!). By the time we reached the ladder at the end of the cave, I was good and ready to get dinner and relax before our early start the next morning. 

The air outside felt balmy compared to the constant 42 degrees of the cave. We hiked back not really knowing where we were going but hoping the trail we found would lead us back to the van. At one point our group of five and a group of four in front of us walked through a dry ditch that the trail traversed. I was bringing up the rear and noticed each person, upon walking through the ditch,  began flailing  their arms as though being swarmed by mosquitos. Before I knew it I too, was surrounded. I tried to shoo them away not overly concerned until Samuel told me they were bees! How I didn't make this distinction is beyond me, but of the nine of us walking through their territory, I was the only one to get stung. They got me through several layers of clothes just above my belly button. It was more irritating mentally than physically, or maybe it was just adding to my already hangry (angry on account of being hungry) state of being. I needed food.

We decided to eat at the cafe at the Lone Fir Resort. It was more of a fancy sports bar than a cafe and the prices went along with the atmosphere. I ordered one large pizza for all of us to share. The boys got a pitcher of root beer and I got a Huckleberry hard cider. We sat across from a group very similar to our own, it was boys about the same age as my boys and their moms.  Three moms actually and three boys. The boys were obnoxiously loud and rude and the mothers laughed at everything they did and said. I thanked my sons and nephews right there and then for being the young men that they were.

After dinner, as we walked back to our room, the guys remembered the pool. Samuel and Hunter didn't bring shorts, but Donovan and Thomas came prepared. After begging and pleading with me, I allowed them to go swimming regardless of them not having swim shorts. At the risk of sounding like a bad mom, I didn't even want to know what they planned to wear (or not wear) in the pool. They headed outside and I passed out as soon as my head hit the pillow.

The next morning I rose early to take a shower. The boys were still sleeping, three to one bed and one of them with me. As I entered the bathroom I marveled at the still dripping wet jeans strewn haphazardly across the floor. The shower curtain and rod had fallen off the wall apparently on account of the weight of the wet clothes that were tossed over the top in an attempt to hang them to dry. Clothes were everywhere and the bathroom looked like the waters had receded after a major flood. I was just glad it wasn't my house.

We ate the free continental breakfast offered by the resort, and lots of it. We needed to fuel up for the long climb ahead. After returning the keys and checking out, we began the drive up the winding gravel roads to Climbers Bivouac where the trail up Mt. St. Helen began. It was a cloudy cool morning but it didn't feel like it would rain. When you are from western Washington you know it's going to rain simply by instinct, and my instincts were telling me that, in spite of the overcast sky, we weren't going to get caught in a downpour.

The trail started out at an easy grade (gaining 1,000 ft. in elevation in 2.1 miles), it was wooded and pleasant. A few small doe obliviously nibbled the soft green grass just off the trail. A few patches of bright purple wildflowers punctuated the green all around that seemed magnified under the lens of low clouds.  That atmosphere was such that we probably wouldn't even bat an eye if we spotted Sasquatch among the trees. It was quiet until we reached the junction at the Loowit Trail. Climbing past this point required a permit and only 100 permits a day were offered. Several people lingered there, resting before the hard part began, some realized they could go no further.

The first 2.1 mile easy forested part of trail.
Forest canopy

We grabbed a snack from our backpacks and made sure to be drinking lots of water. Then we followed the sign to Monitor Ridge. The climb to the top is 5 miles, one way. Like I said, in the first 2.1 miles we gained 1000 ft. in elevation, in the next 2.9 miles we would gain 3500 ft. That should tell you how steep this climb was! Not only was it steep, but the trail was only marked by log poles that were lodged into holes between huge volcanic boulders. We had to spot a pole, scramble hand and foot over couch-sized rocks until we got there and then try to spot the next one. This became increasingly more challenging as we approached the clouds and couldn't even see from one post to the next. It was fun, however, and although we were putting in full effort, no one complained. 

The beginning of the boulder field

Taking a break, with clouds in our hair.

resting in the clouds

The posts showed the way.
Flowers among the rocks

 The boys would often climb ahead of me and then I would find them all sitting in a group resting and grabbing a handful of flaming hot Funyuns or whatever bright red thing teenagers love to eat. At one point, I told them that they could hike as far ahead as they wanted but when I caught up to them they couldn't get going again until I had my own break. They were fine with this and it kept us all pretty close together, an added safety precaution we took was I had one walkie talkie and someone among them had the other, this way we knew basically where everyone was at all times. 

Somewhere along the line we met up with the three mothers and their obnoxious sons from the resort cafe. This served as added motivation to keep us going many times as my boys (ok, we) couldn't let them "beat" us to the top. So many times, however, we leap frogged back and forth as they took breaks, we would climb ahead, and vice versa. 

The boulder field ended and a different kind of difficult awaited us. The last 1000 feet or so to the top was a steep, sandy challenge of taking two steps forward one step back. The ground was soft and each step forward was met with a little bit of slipping downward. The challenge was as much mental as it was physical. At some point, with clouds in our hair, and sand in our shoes, we stopped looking at the ground and looked up at the scenery that surrounded us. The overcast sky was opening up to a brilliant cobalt blue and the nearby Mt. Adams played peek-a-boo almost due East of us. We could finally see the top, or at least what we hoped was the top. It was an amazing feeling to be able to look down on the top of clouds and know that you just climbed through them.

a cloudy view

Thomas and Hunter rest on the steep ascent to the top

Noticing the clouds breaking and Mt. Adams due East

The boys closing in on the summit

whatever works!

The clouds give perspective to the steepness of the ascent

Getting close!

Having spotted the goal, all of the boys, except Hunter, hurried ahead with a new energy. Hunter, although he could have easily left me in the dust, stayed with me. I'm not sure if they take turns or if it just occurs organically, but whenever we are hiking one of my boys stays nearby to keep me company. I try to reassure them that I don't mind hiking alone (I actually love it) but they lovingly insist on being protectively by my side and I love them for that.  The last 50 feet were the hardest but the scenery now was surreal. We could see not one, but two Cascade volcanos hanging out above the clouds, not including the one we were standing on. 

At the top, small as ants, we could see the rest of our group sitting down watching as we hiked onward, seemingly in slow motion. Hunter and I joked, the view is already amazing, couldn't we just call it good enough and rest where we were? But we have never been "good enough" kind of people, and as the mother/son group was gaining on us, our competitive nature pushed us to the 8,365 ft. summit. 

On the crest of Washington's most active volcano, we stood looking out, where 36 years prior a mountain blew it's top, ash rose 80,000 feet into the atmosphere, glaciers melted in an instant, and 57 people lost their lives. On account of the clouds we couldn't see the cone that has been rebuilding the mountain every year since that fateful day, letting the world know, she is still as dangerous as ever.  Exhausted, Hunter and I joined the others on the warmed rocky ground at the top and sat in reverent silence as we took in views of Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood. There were other people up there also, all quietly resting in speechless awe. Our competitors arrived soon and the camaraderie that is shared among those who accomplish a common goal helped us see past any prior annoyances. Not in any hurry to turn around and begin the long trek down the mountain, the boys and I used our packs as pillows and lying down, we napped in the warm sun.

Approaching the crater

Mt. Rainier barely visible due to clouds

on top of the world!
walking the ridge line before heading down

Climbing party 2016

Sam and I

What goes up must come down, and we were no exception. After exploring the ridge line for a little while we realized the clouds were starting to increase, we thought it best to descend before we got caught in a rainstorm.  Looking down from where we had come, we paused before taking the first step knowing that it would begin the long, knee-pounding journey down the mountain. But without hesitation the boys took off, they ran/hopped looking like they were running on the surface of the moon, I followed behind and in an instant we covered as much ground going down what took us a good length of time and energy to get up. That ashy sand that made our ascent so difficult made descending the mountain a breeze...that was until we got to the boulder field.

After bounding down 1,000 feet in a matter of minutes, we gathered to rest and and regroup before we began the climb down and off the volcanic boulders. It was then that I realized a slight pain I had felt as we left the top had turned into a great pain that screamed for attention. My left knee was angry at me for the abuse I had just put it through. As we sat there, we could hear and see the mom/son group descending in a more careful manner than we had and although we had mentally proclaimed "truce" on St. Helen's summit, the race was on once more. 

This time Samuel stayed with me. Since there was no right path to take down we figured we'd all just meet at the bottom. The other boys went one way and Sam and I went a way that looked easier. We descended in the fog which amplified sound. Every now and then we could hear voices and couldn't tell if it was the other boys or our competition. After some time we saw Thomas making his way higher up on the slope and he and Samuel goaded each other that is was they who had found the faster way down.  It turned out that Sam and I were wrong. At one point, when we were back underneath the clouds we could look far below and see the meadow where the actual trail picked up. Donovan, Thomas and Hunter, looking like ants, were crossing the meadow and heading toward the trail. I was moving so slowly on account of my knee that I begged Samuel to go ahead, as I knew, in spite of his protective instinct, he truly wanted to. After I convinced him I was fine, he left and soon I could see him joining up with the others as they rested far below.

My knee pain had become excruciating and every move took a lot of effort. This is where that often annoyingly competitive nature of mine came in handy. I was determined to not be passed up by the other moms and so I pressed on. Soon, after being in contact with the boys via walkie-talkies, I met up with them and insisted on all of us resting until I was ready, even though they were chomping at the bit to get going. 

The rest of the way back to the van should have been a pleasant and easy 2.1 mile walk through the quiet and peaceful forest. With my knee hurting, however, quiet was replaced with the voice in my head constantly going back and forth between "you have to keep going, there is a race to be won!" and "you can stop, rest and even curl up into a ball and die." Luckily for me the former voice beat out the latter. I developed a hobble where as long as I didn't bend my left leg, I was okay. This is harder than it sounds and even the slightest bend had me wincing in agony. I felt completely alone in the forest as I didn't pass a single soul along the way. I rested when I absolutely needed to, but I was determined not to let three women I didn't know win a competition they didn't even know they were in. Funny how the mind works.

After what seemed like forever, the forest opened up to the trailhead and the parking lot where the boys were waiting. I apologized for them having to wait so long and they told me they had actually only been there for a few minutes.  I was shocked. It's amazing how a vivid imagination and stubborn spirit can push past physical pain.  
Best nap ever.

At Climber's Bivouac, where we began, there is a place to register your permit number, the time you began your climb, your ETA,  and the time you returned. We began at 7 am, estimated we'd return by 7pm and were able to put as our actual return time: 4:10 pm. It was a ten mile round trip and we made it in just over 9 hours. It was an accomplishment we were all proud of and one we will always remember fondly. As we loaded up in the van, the mom/son group emerged from the woods. We all smiled with secret satisfaction.

back into the clouds on the way down
By the time we reached the van the sun was coming out.

Samuel and Hunter on their "Mom Date"

(Click on pictures to see them enlarged)


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Writing Myself Out of a Thinking Block

If you wait for inspiration to write; you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter. ~ Dan Poynter

 You can’t think yourself out of a writing block; you have to write yourself out of a thinking block. ~ John Rogers
I love to write; tales of my adventures, memories that recall tears, love and laughter, stories of truth that others can take comfort in. Memoirs that I will have to look back on if my mind ever fails me. But, have I ever considered myself a writer? I'm not sure.

I love to take pictures; pictures that tell stories in just one moment, pictures that showcase the glory of God's creation even though that can never be truly captured, pictures that show a persons personality in one shot. But I'm not sure I ever considered myself a photographer. 

I'm a mom, a teacher, a daughter, a friend.  I have been a student, a firefighter, a caretaker, a wife. These things, to me are tangible, easy to say, because they are, or have been, obvious to others. But to say I am a photographer or a writer, in my mind, means I would have to be able to dedicate myself to my craft without guilt or distraction, maybe even make a living doing it.

To be a writer and a photographer is my dream (as well as a traveler and an adventurer, but those, too seem to need some tangible evidence) Maybe I am being too persnickety. I think this conundrum is coming at a time when I have been forced to face the writers' block that has been ailing my abilities....but there you go, how can I have writer's block, if I'm not a writer? I must be one then.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

It's Summer....and Pouring Down Rain.

We are eight days into our summer vacation from school. One whole week was quite warm and on Sam's birthday I had the sprinkler going just to give the kids something to cool off with. Now, into the the second week, it's not just raining outside, but it's raining cats and dogs. The kids are at their dad's, it's late evening, and the sound of the downpour all together make for the perfect recipe of creative juices flowing strongly enough to entice me to pick up my writing again.

Looking back on my blog, I realize that Thanksgiving was my last post! What happened, was life. Between mothering and teaching and the blurry line that exists between the two, the desire to put my thoughts into words lost out to the desire to put my thoughts to rest. The truth is teaching young students takes a LOT out of me creatively and when I got home on a school day, my brain needed to go to sleep. This is why the kids and I live for summertime!

I realize my life is changing rapidly and I am trying to not only figure out how to deal with the changes but to relish them as well. One big change is my oldest, Samuel, has graduated from Eighth Grade at St. Mary's and as I try to figure out where his best option for high school is, I struggle with the idea of,  "What if I make the wrong choice for him?"

On the other end of the spectrum, Cecelia is seven years old now and doesn't need me to help her go to the bathroom in the early morning hours while we are camping anymore. This may seem like a strange thing to some, but it was an eye-opening moment for me when, in the cold morning air, before anyone else was awake, she announced to me that she was going to go to the bathroom. Now, we were tent camping at my sister and brother-in-laws property and the only facilities was the "tent toilet" hole in the ground. I asked if she needed me to go with her (secretly hoping I didn't have to crawl out of my warm sleeping bag) and she said, "No." With that, she was unzipping the tent, zipped it back up after herself, and was gone.

In my half conscience state of morning grogginess, so many past camping trips flashed before my eyes. All the times, of her sleeping with me, waking me up to go to the bathroom not only at the crack of dawn, but all hours of the night. The nights of nursing her to sleep and ever so gently lying her down so I could sneak back to the campfire. The nights of lying her down in our tent and worrying whether or not I would hear her if she woke up. The pictures of her sleeping cuddled up next to her cousin or her sister. The night of her getting sick all over me, all over the bed, all over the trailer. Those days are in the past as she gets more and more independant every day.

I smiled to myself as I heard her zip the tent up behind her. How easy my life was now! I miss my babies, but I want to freeze them in the age they are right now.

After I got up that day we were camping, as we stood around the morning fire to warm ourselves, I mentioned to Cecelia how proud I was of her for being able to take care of herself. That was when I found that she didn't make it to the toilet tent. She thought the tent shed used for sheltering tools to clear the land was the bathroom and popped a squat in there....without toilet paper.  Her older cousin ended up having to burry her waste.

So, yes, my kids are growing up fast, but to my satisfaction they still need my guidance and I hope to always lead them in the right direction...whatever that may be.

My favorite thing is to see my children snuggled together.

Hiking then....

a little later....

Hiking now!

and now with the boys....I'm the one lagging behind.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

So this is joy....

It's an odd year. That means my kids will be their dad this Thanksgiving and with me for Christmas. I am always thankful for odd years. Being without the kids on Christmas is a wound that doesn't seem to heal, but being without them on Thanksgiving always makes me see more clearly the things I am grateful for.

I was invited to my sister's for Thanksgiving dinner and planned on bringing mushrooms in a creamy garlic sauce and praline sweet potatoes. As soon as the kids left with their dad, I headed to Winco to get the ingredients I needed....the day before the holiday. If the day after Thanksgiving is a shopping free-for-all called Black Friday, the day before should be call Red Wednesday for the color you see when you drive through crammed parking lots and aisles full of people all trying to buy the same items. Traffic was horrific and parking was a nightmare. At some point, while sitting a in an unmoving string of vehicles all headed for the same store, I felt an (for lack of better term) out of body experience.

The sun was glistening on the frost that throughout the day, had never been free from shade long enough to melt. A cloud of steam could be seen bursting forth from the mouths of those passing by as they held conversations from their cars to the stores. It was cold, but nobody seemed to mind because they could finally wear their designer shades again. I stopped myself short as I was tempted to get frustrated by the traffic all around me. Turning up the oldies station, (which, by the way, now plays songs from when I was in high school! What the heck!) I relaxed, told myself I have nowhere I need to be, no kid induced urgencies, and no reasons to stress. So I turned away from the steady flow of traffic that was getting nowhere and approached the parking lot from the far side figuring I could use a good walk. I parked and strolled leisurely into the store with no heightened sense of irritation that usually comes when I am shopping in a crowded store.

Just getting into the building was a challenge with the cars and people with overloaded baskets exiting the store with looks of 'Get me out of this Hellhole!' I walked slowly and smiled at each person I made eye contact with. Although most people seemed to have a sense of instancy about them, nearly everyone was friendlyish. The aisles were jammed from one end of the store to the other. I made a conscience effort to soften the look of my face so I didn't come across as cranky. (This meme comes to mind).....

Then I took it all in. In produce, a couple argued over whether or not a sweet potato was the same as a yam. In dairy, a mother and daughter complained about the price of eggnog, as did two men when pricing hams. Mothers with a few children in tow looking anxious to be done shopping always catch my attention when I get to shop without my kids. I want to smile at her and say, "I know, I've been there."

People barged in front of others and others obliviously hogged the middle of the aisle so nobody could pass. Many people saw the humor in it all, however, one man even exclaiming to all in ear shot that, "It could be worse, they could charge for parking!" I walked slowly placing in my basket only the items on my list; brown sugar, pecans, yams, mushrooms, white chocolate chips...

I felt thankful for the dinner I had to look forward to and the time I would get to spend with family. I also felt thankful that the bulk of dinner was not my responsibility this year, that, I'm sure, contributed to my ability to stay peaceful.

Above all, remember that the holiday season isn't about the perfect spread of food on a fancy table, or being able to get your kids all they ask for, it's about being grateful for what we are able to do, what we have had in the past and all that we have to look forward to in the future, even if that is simply an eggnog latte, or a warm blanket. This season, I am going to try to remember that not everyone has even those simple things that we are thankful for and I want to do what I can to help those people find something in which to find gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone. God bless.

Monday, November 16, 2015

"! Listen to me! What are you doing!!?"

 I paused and thought about it as I stood in front of the stove reaching in the cupboard above for a cookbook. 

"I can't remember."

Four years ago, my oldest son took me by the hand and led me to the couch. I sat down and in a daze I realized my tongue was sore, extremely sore. My head spun and my temples began to throb with an oncoming giant of a headache. I didn't recognize the fact that my five young children, the oldest being nine years old, my youngest only three, were all scared, crying and in shock.  Slowly, the realization that I had just had a grand mal seizure began to sink in. I felt sick to my stomach, both from the seizure itself and from learning that my children had witnessed it for the first time.

It had been at least 12 years since I first found out I was epileptic. Still, to this day, although I have to take anticonvulsants twice a day, I can't even call myself by that word...epileptic. To me, the definition of that word is "someone who seizes uncontrollably all the time and has to take the bus and wear a helmet everywhere she goes." That's not a title I want to wear. The truth is (and this is a hard pill to swallow) I am epileptic, but I thank the Good Lord everyday that He has kept me safe and has allowed my seizures to be medically controlled.  As long as I take my pills religiously, day and night, I am seizure free. 

Going back to the night my kids saw me have a seizure for the first time...I have been thinking about that night a lot because for some reason my children have been talking about it recently. Hearing them describe the moments of time that are lost to me forever gives me the chills. I try to put myself in their shoes and can very easily imagine how horrified they were.

We were sitting around the table eating dinner. That is where my memory escapes me. I remember nothing else until I was brought back to consciousness standing in front of the stove. The only other thing I could tell you is my tongue was swollen and hurt like heck and all I wanted to do was go to sleep. 

This is the kids' version, told to me by Samuel and Benjamin:

"We were sitting around the table eating dinner and then all of a sudden you got stiff and leaned over onto the windowsill. We all thought you were playing around but when you didn't stop when we asked you to, we started to get worried. Then you fell over onto the ground and began stiffly shaking. We saw blood drip out of your mouth and everyone started screaming.  I (Sam) stepped outside because everyone was screaming and I had to get away from all the noise.

I (Ben) saw you stand up and thought you were fine, but then you went to the kitchen with a blank stare like you didn't recognize me. You went to this cupboard and began to look through these cookbooks that you never used.  Sam said he was going to call 911 but you said, "No, I'm fine." and then you sat down on the couch and started to talk to us."

The thought of my babies having gone through such a terrifying scene saddens me. I was supposed to be their security, their safe haven, their rock.... but they witnessed my frailty. I had been low on my medication for weeks and was taking half my usual dosage and sometimes skipping a dose altogether at that point. I had had trouble with my medical insurance and my pharmacy, and half the time, since I was feeling fine, I didn't even think about taking my pills. This is the pitfall of being epileptic but having the seizures completely controlled by medication. Sometimes, it would be so long since my last seizure that I would start feeding myself the fallacy that I was fine and probably didn't need the medicine anymore. The truth is, I do. There have been too many close calls and too many scares for me to even go down that line of thinking anymore. 

Having seizures has never scared me, how can I fear what I don't remember? The fear that my children have felt, however, thinking about that brings up an emotion I don't even have a word for.  It is an emotion somewhere between heartache and horror. One thing, my kids do for me, however, is they tell me their fears without giving me their pity. This I can handle. I can help them calm their fears but I don't handle pity very well. I don't ever want anyone to say, "Poor you!" I don't want to look into well-meaning, though pitiful eyes that feel sorry for me. 

Tonight, I had a scare of my own. While kneeling to pray the Rosary with our block Rosary group at my parent's house, Hunter fell flat on his face as we were praying the last prayers. I rushed to his side surprised, but knowing that he had fainted. He has a history of fainting, syncope they call it. But this time, as I tried to awaken him, he appeared to seize mildly, take a deep breath and then fall back into unconsciousness. He gradually, sluggishly came to, but it took him longer than I remember it taking him before. Getting him into the van, he was clinging to me as though he could barely walk. When we got home I opened the door and he was sprawled on the seat asleep. I had to wake him up again and guide him up the stairs and into his bed where he quickly fell back to sleep. I am praying he will feel fine in the morning.

Let's remember to thank our Guardian Angels for all the overtime they put in. I am convinced that not a day goes by that at least one of the six Angels that live in our household has not saved somebody's life without us even realizing it. Good night.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Morning in the Life...

5:30 AM
Din din din din din....din din din din din....
Grab my phone, tap snooze.
5:39 AM
Same thing
5:48 AM
5:51 AM
Totally ashamed, but, yes, ditto again.
6:00 AM
Grab my phone, actually turn it off and (hopefully) get out of bed. Stand in front of my closet for a good five minutes moving my clothes from the right to the left, and back again, as I try to pick out something that I haven't worn already within the week.
6:07 AM (on a good day)
Turn on the lights throughout the rest of the house thinking that it will make the transition from peaceful sleep to rueful awakening a little easier for the kids. Hop in the shower, awwwww, I finally feel awake!
6:25 AM
As I'm getting dressed in the bathroom, I can usually hear the girls whispering just outside as they coordinate with each other how they will surprise me when I open the door. They are both dressed in their uniforms and wait patiently (but not very stealthily) for me to open the door. This happens several times a week and I have to act surprised each time because it is their special gift to me.
6:27 AM
"Oh wow!! Thank you so much! You girls are so awesome!"
6:30 AM (now, I'm running a little late)
Enter the boys room in a sweet voice saying, "Good morning boys! It's time to wake up and get dressed." I leave to finish getting myself ready.
6:33 AM
Samuel knocks on my door ready to go, literally 3 minutes from his wake-up call. I hug him and beg him to turn the kettle on so I can have some instant coffee (how I long for a coffee pot that will have the hot, brown, liquid 'hug' ready for me when I wake up).
6:37 AM
I give Benjamin and Hunter another (not as sweet this time) warning that it's time to get dressed.
6:40 AM
I go through the sweet ritual of making my coffee. Put a teaspoon of the instant variety in my favorite mug, pour the hot water, stir, pour in the half and half, stir, sweeten it with a tad bit of Stevia, stir...sip...Awwwww! My day has officially began!
6:42 AM
Turn into crazed, almost feverish domestic version of a symphony orchestrator:

6:43 AM
"Get your breakfast, did I sign your homework sheet? Stop fighting and just eat your cereal! Does anyone know if Hunter or Ben have even moved yet? Can you go check? As soon as you are done eating, make your lunch. Have you brushed your teeth? Why are you following me around, no I don't know where your birthday guest list is...why would I, and besides your birthday isn't for another two months. Go brush your teeth, your hair too, while you're in the bathroom.  Can you put the load of laundry in the dryer, I think it's been in the washer for a few days now. Hunter and Ben!!! IT'S ALMOST TIME TO GO!!!"

7:02 AM
"Good morning, Ben, eat, make your lunch and get any papers I need to sign out for me."

7:14 AM

7:22 AM
"Good morning Hunter, you need to hurry, it's almost time to leave" (I say this every morning. EVERY. MORNING.)

7:25 AM
"Ok, everyone, get what you need to go and be ready to leave!" I toss whatever I can find to eat in my own lunchbox, brush my teeth, start turning off lights, walk down the hall to get something....what was it? Can't remember, walk back to the kitchen, remember, go back down the hall, grab my phone off the charger and spray on a fresh coat of deodorant because I feel like I just ran a half marathon.

7:35 AM
"Let's go!!"
"Mom, can you sign my conduct report?" "I can't find my lunch!" "I'm supposed to bring chips for our class party!" "I can't find my shoes."

7:46 AM
After a brief moment of losing it. I yell to anyone left in the house that I will be in the car and driving out of the driveway in ONE MINUTE!

The drive to school is usually a quiet time where each is taking the time to breathe, relax and prepare for the day ahead.

7:59 AM
Enter the classroom to find 12 Kindergartners and First Graders awaiting my arrival.

8:00 AM
Bell rings....time for the school day to begin.

Whew!! I got exhausted just recording my morning routine, no wonder I need coffee again by early recess and again at lunch. I'm sure most homes are just as chaotic trying to leave the house and get anywhere on time, give yourself a pat on the back for the little victories. Instead of getting down on myself when I'm two minutes late, I'm going to buy myself a latte just for getting out of bed and facing the next to impossible circumstances that I face once I do!